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Accidental Prescription Drug Poisonings on the Rise

GRAPHIC: The National Institutes of Health finds 12th graders abusing prescription and over-the counter medications. Courtesy of: NIH
GRAPHIC: The National Institutes of Health finds 12th graders abusing prescription and over-the counter medications. Courtesy of: NIH
July 9, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. - As prescriptions increase for adult aches, pains and chronic illnesses, there's been a corresponding spike in accidental medication poisonings in children. That's the finding of a new study in the July issue of Pediatrics magazine. It says among those at highest risk are children under age five.

According to Dr. Jim Homme, who practices pediatric emergency medicine with the Mayo Clinic Children's Center, that's because the drug concentrations for adult medications are toxic based on the weight of a child, who also tends to put anything in his or her mouth.

"So for the young child with their exploring behaviors, they will encounter a medication that can be quite harmful to them, like the opioids or the diabetes medications, (which) can be lethal at a single dose," he said.

The CDC says the number of childhood deaths from accidental poisoning went up by 80 percent in the past decade.

The study also found a concerning increase in these medicine poisonings among teenagers, although Homme noted that in these cases, it's not always so accidental.

"Teen-agers often know what they're taking, and they're either taking it recreationally or they're taking it as an attempt at self-harm, and so they're high-risk as well," the doctor said.

Homme suggested that prescription medications always be kept in child-proof containers and stored at a height where kids can't reach them.

More information is at goo.gl/9qWbb and at CDC.gov.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN